Watson’s life reads like a Hollywood screen play.
Tommy Watson is the most amazing man that I ever met in my life.
…[Dr.] Watson’s story is… a reminder to every adult out there. Every parent. Every teacher… Our young people need us.
Boom, Boom, Boom! Bang, Bang, Bang! Get down!!!! Whatever you do, DO NOT rise up to see what’s going on!! DO NOT try to get the glass off of you now! Cover your head and chest area now! Stay down! If you look up, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Tommy Watson doesn’t blink when I ask for his parents’ names. He just asks me not to print them. The names give me access to their criminal records, and as I leaf through them, I wonder how Tommy Watson made it…” Dear Younger Tommy, Welcome to the Mile High City! One of the most beautiful cities in the world! A place of vibrant wildflowers and crystal lakes. Unique natural landscape, hillsides blanketed with aspen leaves, rivers surrounded by cottonwood trees. A place where fluffy snowflakes fall in the crisp morning air. The magnificent and mighty Rocky Mountains with its deep canyons can be seen from the windows of every household in the city. With all of that being said, Tommy, this will not be your reality growing up in this majestic city. For every beautiful city, there is an ugly under belly. This ugliness will feel like a stain and a curse to you much of your life growing up in its dark poverty. In fact, the very first year of your life will start off very rocky. Your mother will be arrested not once or twice, but 11 times while your father already sits in a prison cell. Yeah, talk about an unfortunate start to life, Tommy. You will certainly not be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or even a stable home to have your basic needs met as a baby. Again, it’s unfortunate but it’s the hand that you have been dealt. My words of advice are simple, hang in there and don’t give up! By 3rd grade Tommy, it’s hard and painful to say, but you have been through a lot. All of the foster homes, motel rooms, crisis centers, living with different relatives and friends, many schools and parental incarcerations will take a toll on your emotions. Life will seem unfair at times. Hey, hey none of that stuff! Wipe those tears off your face! There’s no time for that. Aunt Milly needs you to be tough for all of the younger kids in the house. You have to be a big boy for your two siblings and your three younger cousins. Yes, I know it’s a lot, but she rescued you, Martin, and Carmen from the foster home-‐ you now have to try to step up to the plate and do your part. I told you I know, yes, even as a 3rd grader you need to man up. Plus, today is the day you get to go see mom. I know it’s been a while. Almost 2 years to be exact. So a lot of people are depending on you to keep it together. Hey, hey I said no more tears! You can’t give up; you have to keep going. Even as a 3rd grader, you have to learn how to simply smile and keep going. Plus, your siblings Carmen and Martin will be depending on you to be big brother when you arrive to see mom at the prison-‐which I know that you don’t get or understand. Seeing mom in shackles will be very difficult and heart breaking. But you have to be strong. I know you are feeling lots of pressure, but like I said, suck it up and keep going. I need you to look at mom and tell her everything is ok -‐ despite the emptiness and feelings of abandonment that will come over you. Mom is very sensitive. I need you to look at Carmen and Martin in the midst of tears on the ride back from the prison and tell them it’s going to ok. “It’s going to be ok. We will see her again.” Despite the fact that it would be nearly two more years before that would happen. Don’t let them see that you are hurt or unsure as to when you will truly see mom again. “She’s coming back, dammit! She’s coming back…” Hey, hey dry those tears and lower your tone. Yes, good. Just like that. And then, listen, Tommy-‐-‐I need you to gather yourself because things aren’t about to get any easier. I know, Tommy. I know it’s tough and doesn’t seem fair. But it’s your life for now. It is what it is. The news has you shook to your core and you’re hoping the sheriffs have somehow made a mistake or even better-‐ that they are joking. But they are not joking nor mistaken, they are dead serious about you all needing to get out RIGHT NOW! Not 30 days or 60 days but RIGHT NOW! I know you thought this summer before 8th grade would be better-‐ but that’s not going to be the case. The pain, humiliation, confusion, anger, embarrassment and uncertainty will feel like a million-‐pound weight on your chest as you exit the house to stunned faces of neighbors trying see what’s going on and the laughs and mean comments of friends. The sounds of each of the possessions being thrown into the front yard by the sheriffs will sound like that crackling roar of thunder striking the ground. Hey, hey, you don’t have time to get mad or cry. Don’t give into the tears. I need you to hurry and gather what you can along with your siblings and throw what you can into the trunk of Grandma Mae’s car. Keep going, think about what you need the most. Everything can’t come with you, Tommy. Stop worrying about the snickering and laughing of your friends and salvage what you can quickly. Yeah, you spent the last two hours grabbing what you could. Now, from the back seat of Grandma Mae’s car, the sight of seeing the neighborhood take the remaining stuff will indeed cause you to shed some tears. Say a simple good-‐bye quietly to all of your other possessions and try to move on. “Where are we supposed to go?” and “Where are we supposed to live now?” are the questions that you have been asking and continue to run through your head as you all search tirelessly for mom and dad to tell them what happened. At times, the tears seem like they will never stop as fear and uncertainty clinch you in its grip. Tommy, Tommy, hey, hey, wipe those tears from your eyes. You don’t see it now but it’s going to make you highly RESILIENT, DETERMINED, MOTIVATED, and DISCIPLINED. In fact, the very thing that seems like a DISADVANTAGE to you right NOW will become an ADVANTAGE for you LATER, giving you the voice around the world as a leading EXPERT on RESILIENCE and MOTIVATION. You will epitomize the statement, “failure is not an option!” You will help others turn transitions into success! Deal with change and uncertainty and still come out on top. Again, you don’t know that now, so my simple advice is: Don’t give up, keep going! You’ll eventually find yourself homeless and sleeping on the floor of a family friend. This will all occur while you’ll be in the midst of being recruited as one of the top football players in the nation. Play it cool. Don’t give the coaches any signs of the chaos taking place at home. You have a lot riding on this scholarship. The pressure will feel crushing at times-‐ but again, trust me. It’s molding you for something special later. The uncertainty of going off to college at the University of Minnesota will create moments of survivor’s guilt and feelings of helplessness towards those that you loved and left back home in Denver. But you must go forward! Football will become your vehicle to even greater discipline, stability and self-‐control. The exposure and relationships will open you up to a world that you didn’t know existed beyond your old neighborhood. Take your trunk with all of your possessions and just GO! Hey, hey, just like I told you when you were younger, you have to suck it up. No crying now-‐ you have to keep it moving. You don’t know this now and it is a bit heart breaking for me to tell you this…but Denver…um Denver… it will never be home for you again… the thought of saying goodbye will cause you to cry for hours on the Greyhound bus to Minnesota. Go ahead. You have been through a lot, so take a moment to shed a few tears. Dr. Tommy Watson, you will have come a long way from growing up as Younger Tommy-‐ whose future looked to align with every negative statistic facing kids in poverty. You will beat the odds!! Your pain will be used to inspire millions and millions around the world! In the end, Tommy or Dr. Watson, whatever you prefer to be called, you will give God all the glory whenever you think about your story!